Jacquies Smith, Defensive End
Smith has bounced around since coming into the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2012, including some time in the CFL. However Smith finally hooked on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014.
His 2014 season featured just 7 starts but he pulled down 6.5 sacks. In 2015 that improved to 7 sacks – along with 3 forced fumbles – in just 12 games. That progression would suggest 2016 could be a huge year for Smith as a pass rusher. The only issue is that Smith hasn’t been getting to the quarterback regularly. Just 12 QB hits in 2014 and only 11 in 2015 are not the profile of an elite pass rusher who is getting unlucky.
Still, Smith is entering his 3rd season in the NFL and that’s when the game really clicks mentally for a lot of players. He needs to get better at recognising the play in front of him and stringing his moves together in order to defeat blockers more consistly. Smith also needs to improve his run defense, protecting an edge isn’t flashy and it doesn’t generate the big money stats – just as Michael Bennett – but it is a vital part of playing the position.
Injuries slowed Smith down last year and he started white hot, picking up 3 sacks in week 2 against the New Orleans Saints and a pair of hits against Cam Newton in week 4. He has a good sense of balance and has been impacting plays without always getting to the quarterback, but for Smith to stick long term in the NFL he has to start dialing up the pressure on a more consistent basis. He has a lot of the physical traits needed to succeed as a pass rusher in the NFL and with Gerald McCoy playing inside of him he should get the looks to do well in 2016.